June 24, 2020

This year marks a full century of publication for AOAC’s gold-standard compendium of methods, the Official Methods of AnalysisSM (OMA).

Since its launch in 1920, the publication affectionately known as “The Analysts’ Bible” has evolved into a comprehensive collection of rigorously evaluated analytical methods. The OMA is the public face of a community and an exhaustive body of work advancing AOAC’s vision of global confidence in consensus based analytical solutions for food safety, food integrity, and public health.

Past AOAC President Darryl Sullivan of Eurofins Scientific, who served on AOAC’s Board of Directors and chaired the Official Methods Board (OMB), summarized the importance of the OMA. “I have worked in the food and dietary supplement testing industry for over 40 years. The OMA has been an integral part of my laboratory’s portfolio for that entire time.”

He added that “Having been involved in litigation many times as an expert witness, when data are generated using AOAC Official MethodsSM, courts have often accepted the data as 100 percent valid, without any further questions.”

The early years

AOAC was founded in 1884 to fill a need by state agricultural chemists to adopt uniform, validated methods and techniques for regulatory and trade purposes. The OMA was first published in 1920, with 214 Official MethodsSM—to this day, the most methods adopted in a year.

From 1940 to 1980, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was the primary “stakeholder” serviced by AOAC. During this period, the Association focused on providing FDA with the validated Official MethodsSM the agency required to carry out its regulatory responsibilities. Consequently, the OMA contains chapters that reflect FDA’s major concerns during that time.

When AOAC became a not-for-profit association in 1979, it was still very much driven by the need to validate regulatory methodology. But in the 1980s, a significant number of industry members began to join AOAC and by the mid-1990s, with membership expanding beyond regulatory scientists, the focus of methods work began to change as well. The focus was no longer solely regulatory methods, but now included methods needed by industry for quality control purposes.

2000 to present

Since 2000, AOAC has continued to evolve to maintain its relevance to the analytical sciences community. In 2005, OMA Online, or “eOMA” was launched — a continuous “edition” that reflects the most current method information available.

In 2011, responding to a drop in the number of methods being validated, the AOAC Board of Directors approved a new process to Official First Action method status to more rapidly meet the needs of the analytical community. Incorporating AOAC standards development, working groups, and expert review panels (ERPs) as integral parts of AOAC Standard Method Performance Requirements (SMPRs®) and Official MethodsSM output, the new process produced 27 First Action methods in the first year alone. In the 5 years since implementation of the new process, the 20th Edition of OMA included nearly twice as many new methods as the previous edition.

Most importantly, the new material in OMA, being associated with the stakeholder process, is closely connected to the needs of industry and relevant to AOAC analytical communities. Since its implementation in 2011, the stakeholder process has resulted in the majority of the nearly 150 methods adopted to date in the areas of infant formula, dietary supplements, food, and more. Further adding value to the OMA are single-source methods thoroughly evaluated by AOAC ERPs, including cutting-edge methods such as a MALDI-TOF.

Today, OMA has both a strong international and domestic footprint. AOAC methods are routinely accepted without reservation in compliance action and in court. The OMA is still referenced in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations as the source for methods to be used in regulation by FDA when no other methods have been prescribed by FDA. AOAC Official MethodsSM are listed by reference in Codex Standard 234–Methods of Analysis and Sampling for any number of commodities and across all four method types that impact trade.

 “The OMA’s longevity is well-deserved due to its continued relevance and AOAC’s commitment to the highest level of confidence,” adds past AOAC President Jonathan DeVries of DeVries and Associates, who served on the AOAC Board of Directors and was a former chair of the OMB. “Congratulations to OMA on its 100th anniversary!”